From The Briny Deep

From across the Atlantic, Hooting Yard podcast listener and aquatic ecologist Darell Slotton writes with important news from the briny deep:

Hagfish are spectacularly disgusting, being sea bottom, naked-looking, smooth, pink eels with a battery of dodgy looking tendrils around the mouth. They burrow enthusiastically into and through carcasses that fall to the bottom, until they are hollowed out. The sight of a carcass bulging frenetically in the dim undersea light, with a dozen of these lovelies inside, is… something. On top of that, if you keep hagfish in an aquarium and reach in to pick them up, they instantly exude a chemical that mixes with seawater to produce a huge ball of snot all around them, which you are left holding as they slip away.



Hagfish diagram from Bigelow and Schroeder, 1948, p. 34.


Hmm. There was a real danger there that the whole month of February could pass in an uncanny silence here at Hooting Yard. That would never do. I could claim that the lack of posts was due to the fact that I was pooped out in Droitwich, but I don’t suppose that would convince anybody. The briefest interrogation would reveal that I have never been to Droitwich and, indeed, am not even clear where on earth it is. One thing I know, or at least suspect, about Droitwich is that its name is derived from the French droit, or right, which leads me to wonder if there is a rive gauche there. If I ever went to Droitwich, would I have the right to act gauchely on the rive gauche? But that is an academic question.

So, if I did not spend February pooped out in Droitwich, what kept me from adding to the torrent of Hooting Yard prose? Is there any truth in the rumour that I have been busy burnishing the golden helmet of Anaxagrotax with swarfega and rags? I admit that I am the source of the rumour, and it has even less credence than the Droitwich story. After all, just how much burnishing does even the most golden of all helmets worn by Anaxagrotax actually need, in this day and age? “Not that much,” I hear you say, dismissively. Some among you probably believe that there is no such thing as a golden helmet of Anaxagrotax in the first place, nor that Anaxagrotax is or was anything but a figure of the imagination.

Incidentally, a figure of the imagination is not the same thing as a figure in the carpet. The best known figure in the carpet I am aware of is the one in the story of that name by Henry James. For some time now I have been pondering whether there would be any point in mashing together some of James’ stories to create entirely new pieces of fiction. For instance, one could take The Figure In The Carpet and his novella The Reverberator, described as “a delightful Parisian bonbon”, and somehow stitch the two of them together. The result might be very interesting, or then again it could be deeply flawed. It’s the kind of task I can imagine completing in the attic room of a house on the rive gauche in Droitwich, penniless, subsisting on a diet of stale pastries and tapwater, lumbering forth from the room of an evening to haunt the Droitwich streets in a shabby and threadbare overcoat. Of course, that is a rather adolescent fantasy of the romantic artist based on a vague memory of reading about the young Edvard Munch, and as such ought to be consigned to one’s mental dustbin.

The other day I saw municipal work operatives spraying communal metal, as opposed to mental, dustbins with disinfectant spray. These masked men laid all the bins on their sides, then powered up a generator attached to their municipal van and let rip with the high-powered spray. It was an exciting moment for me, as I don’t get out much. I wonder what form of spray could be used to perform a similar function on my mental dustbin, if, indeed, such action is necessary. I must do some research to find out if there are available any invigorating sprays designed to slosh out the brain. I suppose such a spray, should one exist, could be applied nasally, or via the ears, if aimed properly. I would prefer not to have to undergo trepanning.

A keen devotee of the benefits of trepanning is the sixties folk popstrel Julie Felix, if you can remember her. She had a 1970 hit with El Condor Pasa, I think before she had any holes drilled into her skull. You can read all about these matters in The People With Holes In Their Heads by John Michell.

So there we are, February’s silence broken. More tomorrow. Comments welcome as ever.